Peanuts, eggs given early could prevent allergies

March 11, 2013

Introducing peanuts, eggs, and cow’s milk into babies’ diets when they are aged as young as 4 months might actually prevent allergies to these foods from developing.

Introducing peanuts, eggs, and cow’s milk into babies’ diets when they are aged as young as 4 months might actually prevent allergies to these foods from developing.

New recommendations from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) say that babies can safely tolerate highly allergenic foods such as cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish when introduced into their diets after they are aged 4 months and after foods such as cereals, fruits, and vegetables have been given. Foods with the potential for allergic reactions should be first tried in the home where the children can be monitored, rather than at a day care, and can be increased gradually if there are no adverse reactions.

The new guidelines, issued for primary care providers, allergists, and other specialists, are notably different from what the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) once had advised: introducing milk after the child was aged 12 months, waiting 2 years before starting eggs, and waiting 3 years before offering peanuts or fish. More recently, AAP published an updated clinical report that said there was no convincing evidence for delaying the introduction of specific, highly allergenic foods beyond ages 4 to 6 months.

The researchers note that although there is no current evidence to suggest that delaying solid foods beyond 4 to 6 months will prevent allergic disease, some studies have shown that delaying the introduction of highly allergenic foods may actually increase the risk of developing food allergy or eczema.

Children who already have been diagnosed with an allergic condition such as atopic dermatitis or another food allergy should wait until they have been formally tested by an allergist for specific reactions to these foods before attempting to eat them.

Food allergies are increasing among children in the United States, with peanut allergies being most common, followed by milk and shellfish. One theory suggests that today’s cleaner environments and overuse of antibiotics might be confusing children’s immune systems into reacting to harmless things in the environment instead of reacting to what is dangerous.